Fisher Law Office

Are you sure your balance is good enough?

When a police officer initiates a traffic stop, you may not know why he or she is stopping you, but you do suspect that you could encounter a problem because you had a couple of drinks before heading home. Sure enough, when the officer approaches your vehicle, questions about your activities this evening begin.

Whether you answer any of the officer's questions could be a topic for another time. Right now, you may find it more important to understand if you should participate in field sobriety tests or not. California law does not require you to do so, and you probably shouldn't.

Exhibiting your balancing skills, or lack thereof

Even if you didn't have anything to drink before driving, you could still "fail" the one-leg stand test. Even under the best conditions, many people do -- even sober drivers. So many people suffer from balance issues, and so many factors can make balancing properly on one leg difficult. When combined with the following conditions, it's no wonder so many people fail:

  • The surface upon which you take the test may be uneven.
  • More than likely, the sun has gone down.
  • The lights from the patrol vehicle, traffic and the roadway could disorient you.
  • More than likely, it's noisy due to traffic and other ambient noises in the surrounding area.
  • Traffic stops often cause anxiety and nervousness.

As you can imagine, hearing and understanding the officer's instructions may be a feat in and of itself under these conditions. Then, if you have a physical ailment, even something as simple as an ear infection or a plantar wart, you probably couldn't properly balance under ideal conditions. Numerous physical problems can skew the test, and you may not think to warn the officer of your condition prior to participating in the test.

Yet another reason to avoid participating in the one-leg stand test is the officer's subjectivity. Most police officers do their jobs to the best of their abilities, but they are human. If an officer already suspects you of drunk driving, it's not difficult to imagine that he or she already has a bias against you.

Politely declining to participate

As you can see, it would probably better suit your interests not to participate in field sobriety tests. Politely declining may not save you from a DUI arrest, but it does prevent you from providing the officer with more probable cause, which could work in your favor later.

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Fisher Law Office

1322 Morro Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401-4028

Phone: 805-706-0205
Fax: 805-542-0464
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